Politics

Houston Congresswoman Proposes Directing Vaccines To Cities, Counties Rather Than State

Houston congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said she’ll push for the Biden administration to cut the state out of the loop, in response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to lift a mask mandate in Texas.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

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A new proposal from Houston congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee would divert COVID-19 vaccines away from Texas agencies and instead provide direct aid to local cities and counties, in response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to drop the state's mask mandate.

Speaking at a food and water distribution center at Houston's Holy Name Catholic Church, Jackson Lee said that Abbott's move to life the mask mandate violated both President Biden's mask order and directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevenction.

In response, the congresswoman said she'll propose cutting the state government out of the vaccination program when she meets with the president's COVID taskforce in coming days.

"I think that states that refuse to comply should have the doses that were given to them directed directly to our local jurisdictions," Jackson Lee said. "Send them straight to Dallas, straight to San Antonio, straight to Austin, straight to South Texas, straight to Houston and Harris County, all of the counties that are struggling to (contain) this virus. They should get the state's share."

Abbott has directed the state's mask mandate for restricting the spread of COVID-19 will end on Wednesday. The decision came, Jackson Lee said, as the U.S. was registering 65,000 new cases of COVID per day.

Texas is not the only state that has dropped its mask mandate in recent days. Jackson Lee said her proposal would also apply to Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

But she reserved her harshest criticisms for Abbott, whom she argued undercut the work of the Texas congressional delegation to help the state fight the virus.

"This was a reckless, without thought, action that did not even engage the members of Congress, who are in fact the advocates for getting the vaccine to the state in the first place," she said.

Jackson Lee called on local governments, businesses, and individuals to do what she said the state government under Abbott would not.

"I pray that our community right here in Houston, Harris County and throughout the state will be self-controllers, if you will – will be self-regulators,” she said. “We'll wear masks. We'll socially distance. Businesses, we want you to be successful. We're sending dollars to help you over the bridge of trouble, but we hope that you will not immediately go to full capacity with 100%."

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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